The creation of the Spanish Speaking Organization for Community, Integrity, and Opportunity in Salt Lake City sought to identify problems of the Spanish-speaking minority. This group worked on behalf of the community to improve equality and access to opportunity in Utah.
On December 9, 1967, an article deep inside the Salt Lake Tribune proclaimed “Salt Lake Spanish to Form New Group,” a headline that understated the raucous meeting of the previous night. The meeting included African-American community leaders, members of the Spanish speaking community, and Father Jerald Merrill of the Guadalupe Parrish. Those in attendance at the meeting, held at the Trinity Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, attempted to talk about some discrepancies in the Salt Lake Community Action Program, however, the discussion changed because many of the most vocal members of Salt Lake’s Spanish-speaking community showed up.
According to Father Merrill, a member of the Spanish-speaking community interrupted the meeting, saying that he thought the meeting was supposed to be about Hispanic issues. The African-Americans in attendance prompted the Spanish speakers to organize, and after a few chaotic prompts and verbose exchanges between the two groups, the assembly shifted the discussion of the meeting to addressing the need of an organization for Spanish-speaking Utahns.
As reported in the Salt Lake Tribunes on December 9, 1967, Father Merrill stated: “The purpose of the new organization is to identify problems of the Spanish-speaking minority, establish needs, select action and move to implement the action.”
In March of 1968 the Spanish-Speaking Organization for Community, Integrity, and Opportunity or SOCIO officially came to existence. Its bylaws were written in both Spanish and English. Heading the fledgling organization were leaders in the Hispanic community, including Father Merrill. SOCIO became a statewide organization by the 1970s. It worked on behalf of the Spanish-speaking community to improve fairness in hiring and promotion in jobs, advocated and selected members of the community to attend college, protested ethnic and racial injustice, worked with Governor Cal Rampton to create a Chicano ombudsman office, helped start the Minority Advisory Board, and promoted the well-being of Utah’s sizeable Latino population. SOCIO worked for the Spanish-speaking community until the organization dissolved 1986.
Image: S.O.C.I.O Float. c. late 1960s. SOCIO created a place for Latino/a voices in Utah's communities. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.
See Father Jerald Merrill, interview by Vincente Mayer, 29 November 1971. Interview S-12B, transcript, Spanish-Speaking People in Utah Oral Histories MS 96 Box 1 Book 2, Marriott Library Special Collections, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. Also see the Salt Lake Tribune: December 9, 1967; and Articles of Incorporation, March 22, 1968, The SOCIO Records, Accn 1142 Box 1 Folder 2, Marriott Library Special Collections, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Ut. Also see Jorge Iber, Hispanics in the Mormon Zion, 1912-1999, (College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2000), 85-114.